Tag Archives: Taipei

Another Afternoon in Taipei – Part 4

I promise the fourth part will be the last part and it will be short. My last destination is the area around the Xi Men subway station. There is a good reason to stay away from this play on a Saturday afternoon: It’s really crowded. On the other hand that’s also a good reason to come here on a Saturday. There is always people and things to capture. Another good target here is the Red House crafts and artists market selling so many original things made in Taiwan.Last but not least, there are a lot of local snacks to be purchased and tasted here as well. After so much walking the little hunger needs to be treated. My choice is usually the spicy fried chicken and a bubble milk tea. Of course there are plenty of other choices and the Taiwanese are masters in walking, eating, talking and all at the same time. I rather look for a place to sit and enjoy the tasty food.

After the snack and some more shots, it’s time to go back to the hotel. Previously, I used to stop in some of the camera stores on Po Ai Street. These stores are now pretty boring just selling the same digital cameras and all that fancy lenses and equipment. I just walk by there to get the subway back to the hotel where it always begins until the next time … Or maybe it’s time to do something different next time.

All images are taken with a Mamiya 645Pro on Shanghai GP3. I developed the film in Agfa Rodinal.

 

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Another Afternoon in Taipei – Part 3

The first time I came to Liberty Square was in October or November 2002 to watch the annual free show of Cloude Gate, Taiwan’s well known dance theater company lead by Lin Hwai Min. Together with thousands of Taiwanese I watched “Rice” inspired by the landscape and story of Chihshang in Taiwan’s East Rift Valley. I was just taken away by Lin’s powerful language telling about soil, sun, water, wind and fire. The tale about the village Chihshang producing “emperor’s rice” by adopting traditional means bridges centuries of confucian life, buddhism and human struggle with the elements to the presence. With “Rice” Cloud Gates simply portraits Asia and differences to Western culture become obvious which is most visible in the almost “communal” choreography. Check out Cloud Gate’s schedule to see when they come your way.

Ok, let me get back to today’s walk through Taipei and get back to Liberty square that is bounded by the Chiang Kai Shek memorial and the Gate of Integrity to the East and West, and by the National Theater and the National Concert Hall to the North and the South. The square became the place for public events and gatherings shortly after opening to the public in 1975. The square become a hub of the pro democracy movement in the 80s and 90s. The Wild Lily Student movement of 1990 became the most influential leading to deep-reaching political reforms, the first popular election of the parliament in 1992 and the first presidential election in 1996. The square received today’s name in remembrance of the struggle on the way to democracy after almost four decades (1949 – 1987) of martial law in 2007.

The recent Sunflower movement even shows that democracy is not just achieved but an ongoing dialogue between the few people in power and the common folk practicing their right to challenge them. In March 2014 hundreds of thousand Taiwanese protested against president Ma’s deals with China which many Taiwanese believe will open the gates to the mainland’s economic hegemony across the Taiwan Straits. The event was never covered by international media since it mostly reported about the still missing Malaysian airplane and the Crimea crisis.

However, Liberty Square isn’t only important for Taiwan’s democracy but as a place of public life. Everybody meets here. People practice tai chi under the roof of the concert hall. Teenagers trying out their moves for a dance performance. A band plays music and marches along their choreography. On the big stage a theater group rehearses some kind of rock musicals. And in between all this Taiwanese families, Germans taking their Birkenstocks out for a walk, and groups of yapping mainland tourists stroll along creating a unique, dynamic and unmatched atmosphere.

Honestly, Liberty Square in the heart of Taipei is my favorite place. Its history gives me goosebumps. In spite of being dedicated to Chiang Kai Shek who ruled Taiwan with martial law and an iron fist up to his death in 1975, it has become a symbol of Taiwan’s people and their wish for liberty. The square, I visit almost every year, is alive. It’s complex and complicated looking at its symbolic involvement in Taiwan-PRC (people’s republic of china) relations. And finally, the square is simply part of Taipei’s public life and a great tourist attraction.

All images were taken with a Mamiya 645Pro on Shanghai GP3. I developed the film in Agfa Rodinal.

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Another Afternoon in Taipei – Part 2

Usually I walk down to Zhong Xiao Road. There are more people, more stores, simply more motifs to take photos of. This time I decide to stroll down Ren Ai Road with it’s shadowy tree lined lanes. Maybe I tried to avoid walking through the Da An area with its cafes, restaurants, boutique shops and interesting residential houses. Yet, I realize there is no way around Da An and I end up checking out some of the lanes anyway. I find the store of the painter again who always has different paintings standing outside. There is Le Suites, a boutique hotel I stayed once quite some years ago and the cafe where I had waffles and coffee last year.

I walk back to Ren Ai Road to continue my way to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall. I walk by the huge Taipei flower and jade markets. I’ve never been in either of them. Something keeps me out of there. Maybe it’s just the fact that a market is a market is just a market. It’s on my list of places to visit but not today.

After crossing Xing Shen Road I see a cute lane of older houses and deviate a second time from the plan. I find a cute looking cafe called Rie X Kobe and decide to sit for a while and have a tea. The cafe is full of stuffed animals, used things and books. It’s too dark in there to take pictures. I still try my luck with one: Patrick Star having tea with my friend Nico with even two Hello Kitties watching. Isn’t that authentic?

The lane leads to a little local market. Most stalls are closed since it’s the late afternoon already. However, I will have the chance to visit the market next morning. Though, this is part of another story. I just cross another big street and finally get to the Chiang Kai Shek memorial.

Read on …

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Another Afternoon in Taipei – Part 1

When in Taipei, I always staying at the Grand Hyatt located close to the city’s highest building Taipei 101. Not that it is the fanciest and newest hotel and the hotel isn’t the cheapest either. I suppose what brings me always back here is some kind of habit and intimacy. Or maybe it’s the untold stories the hotel keeps in a safe place for me.

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I come for business to Taiwan two or three times every year. Once a year I try to spend a couple of days in Taipei. It’s routine to get here: taking the high speed rail to Taipei Station, switching to the Bannan Line MRT in the direction of Nangang Exhibition Center, getting off at City Hall Station, walking through the station mall and the basement level of a department store towards city hall and finally crossing Song Shou Road to enter the familiar site.

Usually I arrive during rush hour after a busy day of meetings and phone calls. After checking in, I take a shower and relax a bit. If I’m not too late, I have dinner at Irodori, a Japanese restaurant right inside the Hyatt. The restaurant serves ‘all you can eat’ and always fresh sashimi, sushi, seafood, tempura, yakitori and so much more. Could I find a newer and better place close by? Perhaps. But again, it’s all about allowing the past creeping in the vacant crevices of the present.

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The same applies to the last stop of the evening to have a good night drink: The Brown Sugar, a restaurant and bar with a live band playing jazzy and bluesy tunes. I’m aware of the hip folk lining the way to Brown Sugar. But I choose to ignore them and the bars and clubs they hanging out in front as well. Even though the names of the places do sound familiar, they ain’t the places of my past.

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The next morning starts with a breakfast and getting the camera ready for a long walk which seems to be the repetition of last night: Recapturing the steps I did before. To a certain extend it is, indeed, just that and more by finding new things amidst the well known. So, I step out into the street crossing the same Song Shou Road again to take a look at the square in front of City Hall.

There is always something going here. It’s a place for public events and often demonstrations of the Taipei citizens. This time not even a handful of workers were dismantling a stage. Just across the square starts the area around the Sun Yat Sen memorial hall. I’ve never been inside during the 14 years of visiting Taipei. Just walking around the square and the little park gives me the opportunity to take some images. In the past years the square was always full of tourists from Mainland China. DR. Sun is highly regarded as the father of the Chinese Revolution and his early death certainly helped his name during the Communist years. On this warm Saturday in April I find a little local event. Just don’t ask me what it is about. The little red stools aren’t inviting. I still sit on one afraid it might fall apart under my weight just to be level with my photographic subjects. Looking at the images now, I always wonder why a 2m guy with a huge medium format camera goes practically unnoticed when taking pictures in Taiwan.

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Guarding Chiang Kai Shek

What does this young Taiwanese soldier feel about guarding the statue of one of the most influential man of twentieth century: Chiang Kai Shek.

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I don’t want to make this a wikipedia entry. You can check it yourself and brush up on your history knowledge. When I moved to Taiwan in 2002, I found a young democracy practicing and trying to find its own way. Democracy also meant fist fights in front and inside the parliament between opposing groups. A deep cut seemed to go right through the Taiwanese, a cut too deep to heal easily. The DPP, a pro Taiwan party, was in power and Chen Shui Bian, a supporter of Taiwan’s independence, was president. He was later convicted on two bribery charges and has been serving a 19-year sentence since. Now the conservatives are back in power still on the course of “status quo” with regards to the China question.

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In 2002, when I arrived, the nation was split: one half believing in an independent Taiwan and the other half still seeing Taiwan as a province of Greater China under the rule of the KMT. While the groups are certainly more mixed today, it seemed at the time that the supporters of a Greater China are mostly from the families of the one million soldiers which came to the island in 1949 when the communists under Mao had beaten Chiang and his KMT army. Any kind of opposition against the leading KMT was suppressed with unbelievable violence. After an uprising starting on the  27th of February 1947, the KMT killed 10000 to 30000 Taiwanese wiping out a large part of the political and intellectual opposition. The 228 incident marked the beginning of the “white terror” period in Taiwan. During the 38 years of military rule 140000 Taiwanese were imprisoned and 3000-4000 were executed as “bandit spies”. Even after Chiang Kai Shek’s death in 1975 the terror against intellectuals and their families continued.The martial law in Taiwan was lifted only in 1987 and finally, the state of war with China was over in 1991.

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Taiwan is still not represented in the United Nations after the People’s Republic of China took the seat in 1971. Only 22 nations mainly from Africa, South and Latin America maintain diplomatic relations to Taiwan. During the Olympic Games athletes from Taiwan start under the name “Chinese Taipei”.

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I return to Taiwan several times each year. I meet very polite, friendly and professional people. It’s really easy to get around and travel in Taiwan. It’s a safe place. The food’s great. The economy of the country is doing well. When my curious eye looks around, I see construction and the development of infrastructure all over the place. Taiwan developed itself from a world leader in manufacturing into a stronghold of high-tec designs. I just can’t figure out what the young soldier guarding the Chiang Kai Shek memorial is thinking.

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All images were taken with a Fuji GS645S on Fomapan 400 at ISO1600 and developed in Kodak HC110. A good reference to find out more about Taiwanese history is Denny Roy’s: “Taiwan: A Political History”

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